Posted in Hope, life thoughts, my heart, Overwhelmingly Thankful

The Gift of Another Moment

Settling back in after a trip to South Africa finds me sitting in a quiet napping house with newly mopped floors. The week’s homeschool lessons are complete on this freeing Friday and the new trampoline is all set up to the squealing delight of four little girls.

Today our neighbor’s chicken decided to begin hatching her seven or eight eggs under our little “garden of Eden” tree. Little did mother hen know that we would be returning home with a pouncing seven month old puppy when she laid her happy little eggs under that quiet tree. You know mother hen was thankful I packed the toddler play pen gate in the crate so she and her little chirpers can live to see another day behind their fence of protection.

After completing week four of homeschooling things are starting to feel a little less crazy. We’re still working out the dynamics of six rambunctious girls in our home (with the addition of our two friends to our school day), but we are enjoying learning together. Patterns are sinking in so I no longer have to be everywhere at once. That right there is lovely, friends. Now I only need to multi-task two to three of these ladies at a time. That’s much more manageable. ūüėČ

I’ve found myself in a state of quiet lately. We have been working through news of dear colleagues going on to see Jesus face to face after a bad car wreck in the Congo. They already are and will continue to be sorely missed, especially here on Sub-Sahara African soil. We held our breath and sent out continual prayers as we awaited news of another couple that we hold dear who were also among the wreckage. We reached out to ‘hold hands’ with our precious friends in Uganda as we all waited to find out when the dear couple would make it to hospital care. And as God answered our prayers in them arriving safely, they have begun to navigate through the shock and the trauma of all that unfolded in the horrible accident. In the quiet, we too begin to sift through it all.

I wish our arms could really reach across countries. Just to hold your friends and sit in the quiet together. And just pray. Just so they’re not alone.

We are just so thankful that while we are far, our prayers cover great distances in a mere second. God is not limited by time and space. He has proven Himself to be Enough. In all circumstances.

These past forty-eight hours have been more quiet in heart. Prayers continually going up. And between the giggles of bounding little girls’ education, I just find myself stepping back for a minute here and there and saying “Thank You, Lord. … Thank You for the gift of another moment.”

Thank You for the gift of another hug from one of these wonderful little girls.

Thank You for the gift of hearing my husband share an encouraging conversation with his accountability partner. I can hear the joy bouncing in his voice as he shares of what You have been teaching him lately.

Thank You for the gift of colleagues that are there to support us, even researching and sharing tricks on how to get rid of ants for a friend.

Thank You for the gift of friends in our city that help teach our kids responsibility and share in deep conversations about life.

Thank You for the gift of a well-trained, tongue-bouncing dog trotting beside my preschooler as they run in the wind.

Thank You for community and the feeling of home.

Thank You for friends at church and encouraging each other through life struggles.

Thank You for long car drives to just hold Matt’s hand and laugh about old stories while the girls sleep in the back.

And yes, thank You for even those little chirpers in the backyard that arouse such curiosity and delight as we feed them over the fense before retunring them to the neighbors.

Thank You, Lord.

I don’t deserve it.

It really is a gift.

This very moment You have given.

Posted in BRAVO, celebrating life, JOY, my heart, the Oldest, willing hands

And Then We Have a Nine Year Old!

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This amazing little girl turned NINE yesterday surrounded by our adopted overseas family.

The children’s department made much of our birthday girl throughout the day

and then there was much rejoicing as she enjoyed a piece of ice cream cake in the evening among friends.

She had counted down the days and her radiant smile throughout the day was nothing but contagious.

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Rachael,

I could not be more proud of you. Your heart is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. How you gently care for the little ones that flock around you is just amazing to watch. Your kindness, your gentleness. You see even the smallest ones and long for all to be included. You graciously listen when others just pass on by and you are always willing to offer your arms to help embrace another. Your laugh is contagious and your joy radiates. How you go out of your way to speak well of others, even if they have not been kind to you. How you see the best in people. How you long to honor others in speech and actions. I am just so incredibly blessed to get to be your Mom.

Thank you for daring to embrace people from other cultures, even when it’s messy and hard. Thank you for daring to listen to others when you are not sure if they will stop to listen to you. Thank you for being so willing to offer reckless abandonment hugs to any and all who will receive them.

You lead your sisters so beautifully well. You care for the inner hearts of people, even when it costs you time and tears. You just love so incredibly well, holding nothing back and offering all that you have. You are such an example to me, Rachael, and you encourage me so by just being you.

So here’s to a wonderful year ahead, my dear Rachael. I absolutely thrill at the opportunity to watch you grow and take flight in our Lord. Oh how awesome it is to get to cheer you on as your beautiful heart grows in the Lord.

I just adore you so, Rachael. Happy, happy ninth birthday, Love. And thanks for letting me still call you my baby. =)

Love,

Mommy

¬†P.S. Stop telling people you only have 4 more years until you’re a teenager. Mommy’s heart can’t take it. ūüėȬ†

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Happy 9 years, sweet Rachael. You are an absolute blessing to our little pack of foreigners.

 

Posted in Crossing Cultures, God's heart, Hope, JOY, my heart, Overwhelmingly Thankful

But For All Eternity

 

There’s no Christmas lights on houses. No tinsle. Not even Christmas trees. There’s no discounted decorations. No Christmas music playing in stores. No desirable presents to buy and wrap for expectant kids. There’s no sledding. No cold winter walks. No snow. Nothing that points to a familiar Western Christmas scene. Nothing here that even points toward the Christmas season.

That’s what it’s like to live in the seed-planting phase on the mission field. Where Christmas doesn’t even seem to exist. (Kind of like the first Christmas, I would imagine.) The “first feet on the ground”. We are literally two of a small handful of Christians swimming up a stream of 100,000+ people. When Matt and I stood up in church to receive communion with the other baptized believers in the church, we stood alone with a visiting pastor. In a congregation of about twenty (and that was on a good day!), we stood alone as baptized believers in our city.

‘Ok then, let’s get started!’

It’s the proclamation phase. The proclamation of the Good News to those inside of the church building because clearly there is much to be certain of in a foundation of the very basics. And the standing on the figurative street corner outside of the church calling out from the depths of your toes to a passing sea of faces.

“Noel, Noel! Come and see what GOD has done!”

 

It’s not just some story. A folktale. A feel good slice of religion for the weak.

It is a piercing light that breaks through the suffocating darkness surrounding us all. It is a promise of a God-man who stepped out of his place of honor into the filth and terror of this world.

This God-man who humbled Himself into the form of a needy babe that we could have the opportunity to be reconciled to a God we, as all of humanity, were actively, and still are, choosing to deny.

It’s a God-man that steps into the middle of egos, desperation, pride, selfishness, manipulation, corruption, hate, abuse, assumed self-sufficiency, deception, and a whole host of all our dirty laundry. The God-man that comes for the purpose of stretching out His arms to take the gut-wrenching blows in our place.

 

“Noel.

Noel.

The Light of the World given for us!”

 

He didn’t just leave us in the middle of our unraveling chaos.

No, beloved, instead –

Come. And see what God has done!”

 

May His Good News sweep through this home, this community, and this world,  breaking the Light of Hope into the hearts of those surrounding all of us.

It’s a story that changes absolutely everything. Not just for a season, but for all eternity.

 

“The story of AMAZING LOVE!

The Light of the World, given for us.”

May we never be the same.

Never.

 

Posted in being a friend, Crossing Cultures, God's heart, Mozambique, my heart, willing hands

Mai de Y

It started with her report that her dear little friend had not returned to school. The break was over, but still Abi had not seen her buddy. Little Y is a frequent visitor to our home. It began with an innocent self-invitation one day in the schoolyard. “Mai de Abi,” (translated: Abi’s Mom) her little browns looked up at me, “(Can I come play at Abi’s house today?)” Little did I know that the first yes would result in our new normal. Little Y lives only a block away and at 2p we’d catch her eyes at the gate. That little hopeful smile.

Little Y with her “Abi… Abi…” consistently putting forth efforts to play with my little first grade introvert. I cannot begin to express my thankfulness for Y in our lives. She’s so patient, kind and willing. One time she brought her little brother over too and I was impressed at how gentle he was. They just played freely, but so respectfully.

I only met her once, Y’s mom (“Mai de Y”), as she came by maybe the third or fourth time Y had played over at our house. That’s normal for the community here. Mai (My) de Y just wanted to check in and make sure Y was playing well and being respectful. I saw how Y hugged her mom. There was evidence of love and a sweet bond.

But today I found myself in a capalana (Cop-ooh-lah-nah) skirt. I used my nine inches of capulana-alotted walking space wisely, slowly and quietly as Matt and I walked a block over. This time she met our eyes at her gate. Sweet little Y. She played with the neighbor kids this afternoon, but ran over to talk to “Mai de Abi” and “Pai de Abi”. We asked for her father, knowing he had come into town at the news. He was somewhere across the street, but Y told us her grandma was inside.

Out came grandma to the gate as she welcomed us into her home. Three little rooms and a living room space. Our shoes left at the door. A capulana applied to grandma’s nightgown dress. A warm welcome and an offering of the couch to sit. And there she shared the details that had broken all of our hearts.

It started as a headache before her visit down to the capital. She checked into a local hospital, which is as normal as a doctor’s visit for us. And that’s when her blood pressure dropped. Lower and lower. Lower and lower, until they received the news that awful day. Mai de Y was gone.

Just like that.

Gone.

It was just a normal trip visiting family in the capital, but it was the last time Y or her little brother would ever see their mom.

 

 

We sat there in the tear-stained silence of that little sub-let house. Grandma looked at the ceiling as tears streamed down her face. People here don’t cry in front of others. But this she could not help.

Grandma shared of raising eleven children, eight boys and three girls. She laughed at the joys of children and told us the same thing everyone tells us: that one day we will have a boy. We smiled and giggled. Boys here are the heads of households. We know her sentiment well. Children are so valued. They are treasured. She knows the joys well.

The future is uncertain for little Y and her little brother. Things are complicated. Father didn’t live with them, but is now in town to see if he can parent them. The family just waits, knowing he will need help. Then the maternal and paternal sides will work it out. One tradition will speak over another and a final verdict will be made. And then little Y and her brother will move away – somewhere… The family will usually try to keep them together, but Y is getting close to that age. The age of possibly becoming a house helper to a relative with a new baby.

So many things are left unresolved. So much hangs in the valance.

“They are so young” comes a grandmother’s pain. She knows she¬†is not the deciding factor in the children’s future home. And yet she has helped raise them. She has lived with them. She is their normal.

We left a Bible and prayed with and over Y’s household. Her grandmother choked back¬†tears again as we reminded her that Y is always welcome to play in our home. “That is so good for her,” she¬†semi-whispered, “It’s good for her to play with friends.”

And I instantly flashed back to that first day Y was back in school. I was waiting for Abi as usual when Y came running up and threw her arms around me. How my heart¬†hurt as I pet her hair and told her we were praying for her and her family. She just held me for five minutes. People here aren’t big huggers. I just kept petting her hair. She asked if she could come over and play. I assured her that she is always welcome.

 

 

She is always welcome…

 

-Please join me in praying for little Y, her little brother, and her family.

 

Posted in celebrating life, JOY, my heart, My Matthew, thankful and grateful

Together for Ten

Today marks 10 years of us. TEN! Wow, that flew by so crazy fast!

And while we’re in the thick of a two week training in our efforts to embrace a culture outside of our heritage, I’m thankful that we get a chance today to stop and just celebrate the blessing of being together.

It all started with a conversation about God’s work in the world and here we are running hard after His plan in our lives.

Thank you, Matt, for the years of laughing, crying and singing parody songs through life together – now brought to you in a bi-lingual version. Thank you for helping me learn to be a better follower of Jesus, wife and mom. Thank you for your endless patience and the grace you extend without fanfare or even comment. Just like I prayed with you last night before we went to bed, today I’m thanking God for my best friend and the utter privilege of getting to do life together.

It’s had some crazy turns: 4 girls, 10 years of serving at Miamisburg FBC, seminary, 2 foster boys, 1 baby who¬†won the race to Jesus first,¬†and now here we find ourselves fighting for fluency in a foreign land… all of which because Jesus said go… and He gave us this together.

So here’s to the¬†rest of our lifetime of together!

Love you so.

Happy 10 Years, Love!

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